College is a huge milestone in our lives and a lot changes in a three month period. For most people this will cause a normal amount of nerves, stress, and excitement. For someone who deals with anxiety, this creates extreme stress, nerves that shake you to your core, and very little excitement. Welcome to my life when I first moved in to my college residence hall three years ago.
I always knew I had some form of anxiety, considering as a child, I hated sleeping over at other peoples houses. I would start crying in the middle of the night and call my parents to come pick me up — no matter how much fun I had earlier in the night. When I was in high school I would legitimately make myself sick before track practice or meets because I was so nervous for the race or disappointing my coach. When I first moved to Minnesota I cried every night because I was so nervous to be in a new environment, all while having no one to eat lunch with (and my school wasn’t the most inclusive place).
Needless to say, when I first moved to college my sophomore year (I went to community college my first year), I was a hot mess, literally. I was sweating, I was crying, I was shaking. On the drive to my university, I had to pull over because I was having such a severe panic attack that I couldn’t breathe, so driving was not an option, my mom ended up driving the rest of the way. Leading up to the inevitable day of move-in, I knew that I was going to have anxiety attacks all day. I’m a home body. I love being around my family, my dogs, and feeling comfortable in an environment.
My parents were such an incredible rock for me that day. While I stood paralyzed in my 12x12ft dorm room, tears streaming down my face, my mom was busy unpacking all of my clothes, my bedding, building the TV stand and putting together the DVD player, all while my dad was out buying extension cords, command stripes, lunch, etc. Then they left. Giving me a big hug, telling me everything would be okay, and to call them if I ever needed them.
For two weeks after they left, I cried a lot. I couldn’t stop myself. I was barely sleeping because I would have panic attacks at night, I wasn’t socializing because all I ever did was cry when people asked where I was from — basically, I was drowning.
Finally, my roommate/best friend was having a life chat with me and suggested I go to counseling services on campus. “Maybe it would help?” she said. I felt so lost though, that I ended up going to student health services because I was considering getting medications to help calm my nerves. While I was there, I had a change of heart. I didn’t want to be someone who couldn’t live her own life because she was so heavily medicated to cease any anxiety attacks. So after the doctor endlessly tried to convince me otherwise, she finally called counseling services and made me an appointment.
I went to counseling for a few weeks to really nail down why I was feeling so much anxiety. Basically, because I felt such severe separation from my family and the memories from my move to Minnesota were constantly in the back of my head, I would create so much panic in my brain it would cause serious anxiety attacks. So my counselor gave me some methods to cope with my anxiety, because that’s all you can do — cope. There’s no cure for this, never tell someone there is.
I started to get involved in different organizations, practically forcing myself to leave my 12x12ft room and make friends. I stopped feeling as homesick. I still missed my parents, a lot, but I knew that I could survive without them. Slowly the year came to a close and I was now a Campus Ambassador, giving tours of a university I was still trying to figure out how to call home.
As the years have gone on, I’ve never once not cried when moving into a new place (I’ve now moved four times since starting here) and whenever I leave home and have to say goodbye to my dogs, I cry like a baby. It’s never gotten easier. I still wake up in the middle of the night with panic attacks. There are days when I literally can’t get out of bed because I feel like I won’t be able to handle the day.
But now there’s something different for me as a ~super~ senior — I have people who care about my wellbeing on campus, not just my parents who are two hours away. I have people who have openly told me to text or call them when I’m having a particularly difficult day. I have people who want to just sit with me while I stare into space because my body won’t let me do much more. I’ve made connections with other people who struggle with anxiety in college and who also need help and want to be a support for someone else.
The main reason I’ve decided to share this story of mine is to show that everyone is battling something behind closed doors. Most people who know me would never guess I struggle with this on a daily basis. I know I wouldn’t guess it if I was a friend of mine. I also wanted to share this to tell people, it’s okay to feel scared, nervous, and sad in college. It’s what has helped me thrive and build on strengthening my weaknesses. You don’t need to know everything and feel ay-okay all the time. You are allowed to feel. Remember that.
Ironically, today is National Suicide Prevention Day. I didn’t plan to write this because of this day, but I’m thankful that I can. If you feel alone, unhappy, or insecure, please reach out to someone, anyone. You are worthy of this life and you are so incredibly loved because of the bold decision you make everyday to live. Your time is not up, remember that.
If you got through all of this, thank you for reading my story. Now that I’m preparing to cut the cord for college, there will be many more moves that my parents will help me with and you can be certain I will cry when they leave me.
Until next week,